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Decades Of Litigation Experience

Agriculture’s Reliance Upon Immigrants

by | Jul 27, 2021 | Firm News |

By Brad B Glassman, Esq.

Agriculture is a cherished part of American identity and remains an important part of the U.S. economy. In 2020, the agriculture, fishing, and forestry industries contributed more than $175 billion to U.S. GDP and supported more than 2.3 million workers. The health of America’s farms and the agriculture industry, however, is tied directly to immigration

Inadequate workforces have contributed to sluggish growth in the volume of crops produced in the United States. This is especially worrying as consumer demand and consumption for fresh fruits and vegetables as increased in the past few decades. This has led to a higher reliance on food imports to meet American consumer demands for fresh produce.

As recently as 2019, almost half—or 48.9 percent—of all agricultural workers were foreign-born and more than one-fourth (27.3 percent) were undocumented.  Among workers in crop production, the share of foreign-born workers is even higher. In 2019, almost 57 percent of crop production workers were immigrants, including 36.4 percent who were undocumented  In  New York alone approximately 10,000 agriculture workers rely upon H-2A status to work  Data suggests that immigrant workers are not being replaced by new, younger immigrant workers. In other words  non-immigrants are not seeking agricultural jobs

This is added on to farmers’ perennial worries about finding enough workers as few Americans seem willing to take on the most difficult and physical farm jobs—particularly those harvesting fresh fruits and vegetables. Yet the H-2A visa, the only agricultural visa currently available to American farms, is too expensive and cumbersome to work for many U.S. growers.

Increased dependence on imported fruit and vegetable not only decreases American food security, but it also has an economic cost. Nearly 1/3 of consumed fruits and vegetables are now imported! How long before American reliance on imported fruits and vegetables all but eliminates home grown fruits and vegetables?